I came across Zapd whilst browsing Apple’s App store on Wednesday night. It was a featured app, available for free and was highly rated – so Ii installed it on my iPod Touch. A few minutes later I had created a Web site containing annotated photos of a wedding I went to over the weekend. The applications byline – “Websites in 60 seconds from your iPhone” – seems to be true. Zapd seems to provide a useful tool for such social applications, but could it be used in a professional context, I wondered. Or might it be regarded as a threat to Web professions, who might doubt whether it is possible to create a Web site so quickly, and question the underlying technical approaches (does it validate? does it conform with accessibility guidelines?), the legal implications, the dilution of an institution’s brand or the sustainability of the content. Does Zapd provide an opportunity or a threat?
Yesterday I attended the launch event of the Bath Connected Researcher series of events which has been summarised in a post by Jez Cope, one of the organisers. The #bathcr event (to use the event’s Twitter hashtag) began with a seminar given by Dr. Tristram Hooley who described how he has used social media in his research and to pursue his academic career. Tristram has written a blog post about the seminar which includes access to his slides which are embedded in the post. In addition a recording of the seminar is also available.
The seminar was aimed at researchers who may be new to social media. I got the impression that many of the participants had not used Twitter to any significant extent. I had been invited to participate in a workshop on the use of Twitter which was held after the seminar. As I could only attend the workshop briefly it occurred to be that I could try Zapd to see if I could create a Web site which shows how I use Twitter on my iPod Touch.
I captured screen shots of the Twitter’s mobile client, Tweetdeck and Smartr (see recent post) and added text which showed the benefits of Tweetdeck’s columns for providing filtered views of tweet streams (e.g. for an event which has a hashtag such as #bathcr) and how Twitter lists can be used to provide additional filtering capabilities for the delivery of Web pages from selected Twitter accounts. It took 10 minutes to create and publish the Web site on my iPod Touch while I was also listening to Tristam’s seminar.
It should be noted that the application had created a Web site with its own domain: (http://1a5c.zapd.co/) . So this application does seem to provide something more than uploading photos to Flickr.
Is this a Web site? After all it’s only a simple single page containing text and a few images. But as it has its own domain name surely it must be regarded as a Web site. But should such Web sites be allowed to be created – aren’t they likely to infringe instituional policies? Aren’t we moving away from a distributed environment and towards a centrally managed environment for Web resources? After all, as was suggested to me on Twitter, aren’t Web sites which can be created in less than 10 minutes likely to be forgotten about a week later?
Perhaps this is true, but for me an important aspect of the Web is in providing a communications environment and not just a institutional tool for the publication of significant documents. And sometimes the communications may be an informal discussion – and I think that Zapd could have a role to play in that space.
I also think that we should be willing to learn from new approaches. Being able to create a Web site on a mobile device is quite impressive. It was also interesting to observe how the service creates a new domain name for each resource created. Should this be something for institutions to consider?
For me I regard Zapd as another in my Personal Learning Environment which I’m happy to use if it fufills a useful purpose. And if it fails to do that, I’m happy to throw it away. And with 100,000 downloads since its launch two weeks ago it seems I’m not alone in exploring its potential. What’s your take?